1Yesterday was Akemi’s birthday.  I had the whole day planned weeks in advance.  As it turns out, months in advance as I learned too late that I’d actually booked us for a visit to the dentist back in October. And so, after dropping the dogs off at doggy daycare, we kicked off Akemi’s special day by having our teeth cleaned.  On the bright side, upon discovering it was her birthday, our dentist presented Akemi with a few gifts: a pink toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss.

Since we had big dinner plans, we opted for a light lunch.  Relatively speaking.  We headed over to Rodney’s Oyster House where we enjoyed…

A dozen oysters on the half-shell.  Surprised?
The Manhattan Clam Chower for Akemi.
And the oyster po’boy for me – possibly my favorite sandwich. As much as I love haute cuisine, I have to admit nothing beats a po’boy.

After lunch, it was time for our couple’s massage at the Wedgewood Hotel spa compliments of sis and Daisy in Montreal.  Akemi enjoyed it immensely, declaring it the best massage she’s had in Vancouver.  As for me…meh.    I was actually more tense and sore AFTER my massage. Also, what’s the proper etiquette on underwear?  I keep mine on. Akemi is more of a free spirit.  Thus, I was inside the sauna wearing a bathrobe over my towel over my underwear, standing by the door so that I could keep an eye on my belongings outside (since no locker was provided) and give Akemi the heads up if someone was coming.  It was NOT particularly relaxing.  Also, I found it odd that we weren’t offered flip-flops and ended up having to walk around barefoot.

Still, it was Akemi’s day and she loved her massage.  And that was the most important thing.  Outside of the lack of flip-flops.

We picked up the dogs, fed them, and then it was downtown for Akemi’s birthday dinner at her favorite Japanese restaurant: Minami. It, and its sister restaurant, Miku, specialize in aburi (flame-seared sushi) and are part of a restaurant group headquartered in Japan. Most of its sushi and kitchen staff are Japanese.  In terms of quality and service, it’s the closest you can get to the Japanese dining experience without actually visiting Japan.  But I wanted to go one step further.   Aware that the restaurant sourced some of its fish from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Market (along with the freshest local catches and ingredients), I contacted one of the managers and arranged to have some more unique selections shipped in for the occasion….

As per my request, we were seated at the sushi bar.  There, we were welcomed by Chef Hiroshi Hoshiko who, along with Chef Hideto-san, ensured we were well taken care of.

Dinner was fantastic, reminiscent of the many fine meals I’ve enjoyed in Tokyo.

We started with an appetizer trio: Japanese broccoli and clam, tuna tartar-stuffed ravioli and apple, prawn ohitashi (marinated in sweet vinegar).  Then, we moved on to the sashimi plate that included:

Aji (horse mackerel) tartar “namero”, aji, tuna, and two kinds of hirame (flounder).  The aji was the best I’ve had outside Tokyo and the textural differences in the two hirame cuts – one mouth-in-your-mouth tender, the other firmer but no less delicious – were terrific.

Next up –

Grilled snow crab with (cooked) tuna in what Akemi believed was a sweet and savory soy and sugar-based sauce.  Marvelous.

While we were eating, we noticed the chefs discussing the multicolored contents of a glass container.  They noticed our interest and presented us with some “kosen” –

Japanese puffed rice used in –

It was very kind of them to share.  The rice was a gift to Chef Hiroshi-san from his mother in Japan.

The next course was a heavy hitter:

Red miso-braised pork with potatoes, peas, and crisp enoki mushrooms.

My description doesn’t do it justice.  A tender, well-marbled, incredible dish.

Intermission –

Shiso and champagne granita palate cleanser with gold leaf.

And then, it was on to the sushi.  We were served a variety of fabulous nigiri.  A few of the highlights –

Tai (snapper) with sakura (cherry blossom) salt.
Bonito!  First time I’ve enjoyed it outside of Tokyo.
Sayori from the southern coasts of Japan.
Anago (sea eel)!  Much more delicate than its more common (unagi) counterpart.
Toro toro!  Another melt-in-your-mouth wonder.

In addition, we were served a traditional grilled snapper collar followed by a miso soup.  We finished with…


A delicate yuzu cake served with a light ginger ice cream, orange compote and pistachio foam.

Best Dinner of the Year.  I honestly felt like I was back in Tokyo.  Very nastukashii.

A big thank you to our sushi chefs, Hoshiko-san and Hideto-san, and chefs Kazuki Uchigoshi and Michael Acero who conceived and created our special meal.  And, of course, an equally big thanks to Minami Event Coordinator Karen Lau who made it happen.

Minami Restaurant — Yaletown Vancouver

But wait!  There’s more!  We returned home for the piece de resistance –

Akemi’s birthday cake!
Chocolate + Caramel: Flourless chocolate cake with dark chocolate cremeux, milk chocolate mousse, hazelnut chantilly, milk jam, and chocolate covered hazelnuts.

Compliments of Beta 5’s Adam Chandler.  Wow!

BETA5 – Award-Winning Chocolates and Pastries – Vancouver, BC

Then, tonight, on the menu…

Oysters on the half-shell, port-braised short ribs, pork belly appies, sweet potato mash, and quinoa salad.
Oysters on the half-shell, port-braised short ribs, pork belly appies, sweet potato mash, and quinoa salad.
And friends.
And friends.

Akemi thanks you all for the birthday wishes!

24 thoughts on “April 19, 2013: Akemi’s Birthday Festivities!

  1. What a fun birthday for Akemi. Thanks for sharing Akemi’s day. The desserts look wonderful.

    I had a massage once; I didn’t like it much so I haven’t repeated the experience. I just figured I was weird for not liking it. :p

  2. A belated happy birthday to Akemi. Was attending my sister’s birthday party yesterday. Yes, Akemi and my sister have the same birthday.

  3. Well, a visit to the dentist for your birthday is … Different. Shame you didn’t enjoy the massage as much as she did. As for the food… Wow. Would love to try that unabashed some day, in particular. And the final picture was the best. Nothing beats good food and good company. Glad the day was a winner. Hope the weekend continues to provide fun and satisfaction

  4. Belated happy birthday to Akemi!

    Yesterday was my hubbies birthday too. He was working so we weren’t able to do much, plus he’s also working today, but I’m taking him out to dinner at the Mussel Inn tonight. Yes, they do serve mussels, but so much more!

  5. WOW Akemi – you’re a lucky girl! Joe, my birthday is coming up in July… can you plan it ? You know how they(whoever they are) say your body changes every so often?Well… after about 20 years or so,not being able to eat chocolate, it’s now back in my diet. I have been eating chocolate since before Easter without any issues!!! SO Joe include some chocolate? 🙂

    Glad you had Happy Birthday Akemi.

  6. 誕生日おめでとう〜〜〜〜〜〜〜〜 (^w^)
    Happy Birthday Akemi !! 🙂 Looks like a lovely day! Deserts are my weak point too ! xo

  7. Wow! That sounds like the meal of my dreams! Thanks for sharing a special day.

  8. First–belated Happy Birthday Akemi. With work, a sick Patrick (again!) and watching the news day and night since Thursday about the Boston thing, I have not been on the Internet much this week. I still haven’t finished watching American Idol and don’t know who got sent home on the results show. Your celebration sounds wonderful. Outside of the teeth cleaning. I tend to not want to eat after mine.

    Couoles massage–I enjoyed mine, but Jeff felt very uncomfortable. I asked for 1 male and 1 female and let him decide which he felt comfortable with and I would take the other because I didn’t care. But if we wanted to sauna or do anything like that there were separate men’s and women’s areas. But I agree with the flip-flops. They should have provided those. Jeff told me that was something he never wanted to do that again. Massages were “my thing” not his.

    The cake sounds delicious.

  9. Looks and sounds like it was a great day for both of you. Well, except maybe your massage. The only massages I’ve ever had were therapeutic, for muscle injury. They are NOT fun, although it does feel better after it’s over.

    The meals looked great!

  10. @Akemi – hope you enjoyed every every bit of the special day.
    And, remember, birthdays are supposed to last 2 weeks. SO….you have now had 1 day of brithday and have 13 more days of celebrating an wonderful things.

    Joe, DUDE! you did good. Now only 13 more days of pampering the wonderful Akemi.

  11. Beautiful Akemi, beautiful cake, beautiful friends,, I could go on and on!! Great job Joe, Happy Birthday Akemi!!! Hope Akemi had a wonderful day, and omg, so much food! Did Bubba get her any fuzzy slippers or just fuzzy kisses..>? The balloon baby was so cute!! Keep the party going! 2 more days til mine and thats my plan. Thanks for sharing..,,ps,if this is posted 2 times, it made me put in my inf again, sorry.

  12. Wow, that is one top notch, terrific cake. Yummers!

    Beautiful meals. I couldn’t do the oysters though. I’ve tried them prepared many ways, and I simply cannot eat them. More for you folks!

    We had a lovely couples massage in Cancun. The spa at the resort was a little village, sunken down a level so the trees absorbed all noise. Fluffy robes, flipflops, a steam bath first, them a series of small rock pools of various temperatures, with fruit and lemon water, the relaxing in loungers with cold compresses over our eyes. Low flutey music. Then the massages, in a secluded “hut”, with aromatherapy, and older ladies who had been informed of our preferences before hand as to stage of undress, temperature, oils, pressure and where to concentrate and where to avoid. Wow. I think we should have tipped them better, but my mind was a complete blank afterward.

    Yeah, I have no problem with getting naked in such a setting (in the hut, the pools weren’t a “topless” area. Darn). But then, I have no trouble being naked. It ain’t pretty, but I don’t give a damn anymore.

  13. Woah, beautiful presentation on the miso pork, and all the food looks delicious and gorgeous. I’m glad Akemi had a wonderful birthday!

    I’m making a second attempt at low cal brownies, using stevia and coconut flour, and 85% dark choco instead of the 90% which had the texture of chocolate raw crude.

    Saw Danny Boyle’s Trance which was 75% stylish thriller and 25% nekkid Lifetime woman-in-peril-movie. It’s no Shallow Grave or 28 Days, but Vincent Cassell is still the coolest.

  14. Belated Happy Birthday Akemi 🙂 So glad that you had such a special day!

    Corin Nemec is having surgery again Tuesday – Let’s all wish him the BEST !

  15. Must admit Joe, when I saw the and friends picture, I was wondering, what about a picture of Joe and Akemi together on her Birthday? Seemed like the only thing missing from Akemis Birthday blog entry lol

  16. Happy Birthday to Akemi again! It looks like you all did it up in grand style! The oysters had my mouth watering!

    On the massage, I’m with you Joe. I have a cousin-in-law who is a physical massage therapist. In an attempt to show me her trade, she found a knot on my back and she proceeded to “massage” it by pressing on it with her thumb:

    Her: “Feel that knot?”
    Me: “Urk…I think so” (clenching teeth and fists)
    Her: “As I repeatedly push and relax with my thumb, we work the knot out…”
    Me: “Urk…how…urk…long…urk…do you…urk…need to…urk…do this?..urk?”
    Her: “Hmmm…it’s not going away…that’s odd.” (Pushes harder and longer)
    Me: “URRKK! What? URRKK!”
    Her: “I can’t tell if I got the knot out or not…are your muscles always this tight?”
    Me: “How should I know??!!”
    Her: “Want me to try again?”
    Me: “No! I mean it feels better now…I’m okay, really!” I keep facing her so her hands can’t touch my back, and ask my cousin Mark, “So you get massages often?”

    I have not subjected myself to a professional massage before or since.

    It’s not my cousin-in-law’s fault. Apparently my back muscles are abnormally tight and as a result, back massages aren’t that enjoyable for me. Neck massages on the other hand…

  17. I would love a daily shoulder massage. That sounds so good. Joe for you to say the restaurant reminded you of Tokyo, that is a huge compliment. It must have been very good. Love the last picture with all the friends gathered around the table for dinner. And the cake…yum, yum, yum! Good job Joe!

  18. I prefer the Willow Stream Spas at the Fairmont Hotels or the Spa at the Pan Pacific which has great relaxing areas & ambience (AND flip flops!)…but the best place for a truly health-giving and revitalising massage (but sadly a very public one) is the North Vancouver Shiatsu Clinic over at Lonsdale Quay Market..I seriously would fly all the way from London just for one of their massages..in fact I have been considering it as I’m suffering terribly from foot pain & can’t exercise at the moment as well as neck & shoulder problems..I visited them twice in March on my last visit and wish I could take one of them home with me..:)

    Glad Akemi had a great day…sounds like a wonderful gastronomic celebration all round…

  19. Happy belated Birthday to Akemi, looks like some amazing meals and a very yummy cake ! On my last birthday I woke up with a raging toothache and half my face swollen and then spent all morning trying to find a dentist open on a sunday on a foreign town we had neve been to and with just passable french, much prefer yours and Akemis version 🙂

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